My knee-jerk reaction is to blame the Employee Engagement epidemic on the increase of Millennials in the workforce. Though they may complain the loudest, they can’t be fairly pegged as the culprits behind the low engagement in the workspace. Looking at the Gallup numbers around 80% of employees world-wide aren’t engaged, but the workforce only consists of about 50% Millennials. Assuming every single Millennial is disengaged (impossible) that still leaves a very large percentage of other generations that are also not engaged. Furthermore, the research behind such high disengagement in the workforce goes back well before Millennials were in the workforce. Prognosis? Employee Engagement is a workforce problem, not a generational problem.
At the end of the day, all people problems are really leadership problems. Low levels of engagement follow bad leaders. If an organization has too many of these bad leaders, they’ll find the bulk of their workforce simply isn’t engaged. To fix this problem, organizations must make sure they have better leaders leading their workforce. Leadership development is a very robust and advanced industry. The number of fixes and strategies organizations have at their disposal is truly staggering; however, one of the must effective of these strategies is intelligent promotion.
All too often, a contributor is promoted to a leadership/management role because they are good at their job. For example, the top salesman is a very likely candidate for sales manager. But does being good at selling a product mean a person will be good at leading a team? Impossible to say. There’s simply no correlation between the two. Truth be told, most individuals who excel in their field probably don’t want to be bothered by the administrative burden that comes with management. Yet, these high performers still aspire to be managers and continue to be promoted. Why? Because all too often, the pay bump from contributor to manager is too much to pass up. Paying a person more because they take on extra responsibilities is both fair and equitably, but it can also have unintended consequences. In this case, promoting an associate simply because he or she is a high performer will almost certainly lead to the creation of a disengaged team. Leadership skills are different and need to be treated differently and cultivated differently. This doesn’t mean that a high performer with no leadership skills can’t acquire those skills, but it does mean that if organizations wants to enhance the Employee Experience, they’ll need to ensure that all of their managers are trained to be good leaders.
In a podcast with Michael Beck, he brought up how leaders shape the company culture (a reflection of the Employee Experience). He defined company culture as the set of values and behaviors that an organization will tolerate. He went on to say that if leaders simply establish a set of shared values, they’ll like not find the results they want. However, if managers across all levels are actively encouraging and supporting those shared values, then the organization will become those shared values – or culture. To listen to Michael’s full podcast, visit Forging Employee Experience and to keep in touch with Michael you can follow him on twitter @Michael_Beck or visit his website. His, Eliciting Excellence, can be purchased on Amazon.
Employee Engagement is a vital metric to understanding the health of an organization. If companies want to help positively shape their employee’s work experience so that metric increases, they must make sure they are promoting individuals who are ready for leadership and enforcing values that matter.